How CoEnzyme Q10 May Help Prevent Your Migraines

Is the Supplement CoEnzyme Q10 Effective in Migraine Prevention?

How Foods Rich in CoEnzyme Q10 May Help Your Migraines. John Carey/Getty Images

CoEnzyme Q10 -- known as CoQ10 -- is a naturally occurring substance found in the mitochondria of almost every cell in the body. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells -- they provide the energy needed for cells in the body to survive.

Supplementation with CoQ10 has been examined for preventing and treating a number of different diseases, especially those related to the heart. There is also some evidence that CoQ10 may help prevent migraines.

How Does CoQ10 Potentially Prevent Migraines?

Dysfunction or a problem with the mitochondria of a person's cells has been linked to migraine formation. Specifically in migraine patients, there may be an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants -- this creates a condition of oxidative stress. This metabolic abnormality in the brains of migraineurs may make them more vulnerable to migraine-related triggers. These metabolic abnormalities are also more severe in more serious migraine variants, like hemiplegic migraine.

Because these metabolic imbalances are found not only during migraine attacks, but also between attacks, supplementation with CoQ10 (which has antioxidant activity) may improve this imbalance and overall energy metabolism in cells. This would help to overcome any mitochondrial defect and potentially prevent migraines.

The 2012 American Headache Society and American Academy of Neurology guidelines for prevention of episodic migraine listed CoQ10 as a level C drug or "possibly effective" for migraine prevention.

Does CoQ10 Actually Work?

It's not clear at this point. A couple small studies point towards the potential benefit of CoQ10 in reducing the number of migraine attacks.

For instance, in one small 2005 study in Neurology, 43 patients with migraines with and without auras received either 100mg of CoQ10 or a placebo pill three times daily for 3 months.

During the study, the participants recorded aspects of their migraine in a diary including:

  • headache severity
  • nausea/vomiting
  • acute migraine medications
  • headache duration

Results of the study showed that the people who took CoQ10 had a 50 percent or more decrease in the number of migraine attacks at the end of the 3 months compared with people with took the placebo.

CoQ10 was well-tolerated by the majority of participants  one person did drop out due to a skin allergy.

What are Sources of CoQ10?

Foods that contain CoQ10 include oily fish (like salmon or tuna) organ meats, and whole grains. CoQ10 is also available in many supplement forms. One enticing aspect of CoQ10 supplementation is its low side effect profile -- with the most common ones being nausea, diarrhea, appetite suppression, heartburn, and upper abdominal discomfort.

As always, be sure to consult your doctor before trying any nutritional supplement, especially since CoQ10 does interact with a number of medications.

Bottom Line

Some migraines may be linked to problems with the mitochondria of cells.

More studies on CoQ10 and other therapies that improve mitochondrial function would be helpful.

Sources:

University of Maryland Medical Center. (Reviewed 2015). CoEnzyme Q10.

Loder, E., Burch, R., & Rizzoli, P. (2012). The 2012 AHS/AAN guidelines for prevention of episodic migraine: a summary and comparison with other recent clinical practice guidelines. Headache, 52:930-45.

Lucchesi, C. (2015). Evidence of Reduced Antioxidant Activity in Patients with Chronic Migraine and Medication-Overuse Headache. Headache, 55(7):984-91.

Markley, H.G. (2012). CoEnzyme Q10 and riboflavin: the mitochondrial connection. Headache, 52 Suppl 2:81-7.

Rozen, T.D., et al. (2002). Open label trial of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine prevention. Cephalalgia, 22(2):137-41.

Sándor, P.S., et al. (2005). Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology, 22;64(4):713-5.

Tepper, S.J., Rapoport, A., & Sheftell, F. (2001). The pathophysiology of migraine. Neurologist, 7(5):279-86.

University of Maryland Medical Center. (Reviewed 2015). CoEnzyme Q10.

DISCLAIMER: This site is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for advice, diagnosis, and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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